Monday, January 31, 2005

Anberlin - Never Take Friendship Personal CD Review

Back in college there was always one sure-fire way to tell the difference between members of the freshmen class and those who were upperclassmen simply on how the basis of how a person looked. In early morning classes there was a big difference in how people dressed. If you saw someone walking into class dressed to the hilt, wearing make-up (if you were a girl), having perfect hair, and sporting the latest designer trends, that person was guaranteed to be a freshman. Anyone getting up hours before class to polish up their looks to near perfection hadn’t yet become accustom to staying up late, shooting the shit with your neighbors, partying, missing out on sleep, and waking up only just in time to stroll into class a minute or five late, dressed simply in jogging pants and a t-shirt. Both forms of dress were functional and kept a person dressed, but one was much more attractive than the other.

Anberlin’s sophomore effort shares a lot in common with a college freshman—Never Take Friendship Personal is so glossy that you can’t help but notice it. They got up hours before class started to get this release as clean and perfect looking as it is. Each guitar lick, every drum roll, every bass line, and each vocal passage has been polished so many times over that I’m surprised that I didn’t go blind when I looked at the cd.

I brought up the college analogy not only to illustrate the shine that this cd has, but also to emphasize the attractiveness this cd will hold for most rock fans. Sitting in class, who would you be more likely to notice, the hot girl wearing tight jeans, a revealing shirt, and having her hair draped around her face just so perfectly or the girl in the back wearing a baggy sweatshirt with her hair pulled back into a pony tail? I’m betting 99% of the time, your eyes are going to be drawn to the girl who took the time and effort to make herself look good. Instead of just making another run of the mill modern rock cd, Anberlin decided to go the extra mile this time around in terms of production and polish, making this cd a shining example of the magic that can be pulled off in the studio.

For some, however, this will also be a turnoff of gigantic proportions. Anyone who craves the raw sound of a band recording their cd live and leaving it that way won’t find anything to like on this disc. Listening to it might, in fact, cause convulsions and seizures from the utter lack of anything resembling a live sound. Looking beyond the production values, though, it is hard not to want to sing along with each song or to not get caught up in the beautiful melodies throughout. Complementing the tender, yet strong, vocals are thick modern rock guitar licks—not thick as in meaty, but thick as in filling. You won’t find any distorted, heavy guitars on here. No sir, it’s all slick radio friendly guitars on this disc.

Even as it possesses so many catchy rock songs, this disc still has one flaw, and that flaw is a very serious one—there is nothing groundbreaking or original to be found on it. Anberlin have simply tweaked their sound from their last album, added some newfound maturity to the mix, and produced the hell out of it. For this reason, I have a hard time seeing this album staying in my stereo 6 months down the line, even if I can’t seem to get it out of my stereo now. You definitely can’t go wrong by picking up this cd, but don’t be surprised when it’s fallen by the wayside a few months down the line.

It Always Feels the Same

So I finally finished I, Robot by Isaac Asimov the other day. Now don't get me wrong, I rather enjoy reading his stuff, but every book and every short story feels almost exactly the same. It doesn't matter if you're reading a Foundation novel, a robot story, or any of his other novels or short stories--there is one formula that he follows and it goes a little something like this:
  1. 1. Get acquainted with the characters and listen to them interact for a bit.
  2. 2. One character lays out a situation with all pertinent facts stated. From this initial description of the situation, an obvious logical fallacy is presented as the conclusion of the situation. Sometimes, instead of having the logical fallacy presented, Asimov will instead choose to set up a situation where it appears that there is no possible way to solve it.
  3. 3. Much discussion takes place between characters.
  4. 4. The situation is resolved, but you don't know how, except for the fact that one character usually says something akin to "Ahhh, now I know what we must do."
  5. 5. As characters reflect on situation, the way in which the situation was resolved is revealed.
  6. 6. The end.
I don't think I've yet read an Asimov story that hasn't at least loosely followed that template. It's gotten to the point where I don't even really read his short stories as stories, but instead view them as logic puzzles. I, Robot presented many different logic puzzles involving how robots could do something which on the surface appeared to break one of the three laws of robotics. Even though I, Robot is a self-contained novel, it should be viewed more as a collection of short stories. Dr. Calvin, the main character of the book, is simply recounting different robot stories to a reporter who is doing a story on her.

Anyhow, if you like sci-fi and/or logic puzzles, you've probably already read plenty Asimov. If you have yet to experience his writing, this book is as good of a place to start as any.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Journey - The Video Game

As I was talking with one of my co-workers today about the sheer craptitude that is embodied by the combination of the lead singer of one of the worst rock bands of all time and one of the worst film characters to ever come out of the 80's in this poster on this website, we started talking about video games back in the good old days. That's right, the Atari 2600 days.

We recounted stories of playing Combat, Asteroids, and trying to figure out what was going on in ET. While we were talking, and sparked by the aforementioned poster, my co-worker remembered that he owned the Journey Escape game for the Atari. I had never heard of it and he had only picked it up because of the name, not the band. I didn't believe him that they ever based a game on a crappy rock band, but then he IM'd me this site, I couldn't help but believe him, as well as wish it was only a joke.

What cracked me up even more than knowing there was once an Atari game based on Journey, was the fact that the site I just linked to existed. Look at it. It's got every little detail about the game in it and explained. There's even an archived commercial for the game. Who in their right mind would dedicate that much time to a video game released more than 20 years ago about a rock band whose biggest hit was the craptacular "Don't Stop Believin"?

Again, I am reminded that some people have altogether way too much time on their hands and if you want to find something on the internet, you just have to dig deep enough and you're sure to find it.

[Update: Thanks to Mag, you can check out the Journey arcade game. How did Journey get so popular in video games?]

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Chemical Brothers - Push the Button CD Review

The Chemical Brothers were one of the few techno groups to break into the US mainstream back in the mid to late 90’s. There would be days where you’d see the “Block Rockin’ Beats” video played on MTV a couple of times or more. Their songs have been used for numerous advertisements and promotional materials, while also finding themselves being played in clubs across the nation, so it’s not too much of a stretch to say that they’re one of the most successful techno artists in the states over the last 10 years.

Since the release of Planet Dust, through the successes of Dig Your Own Hole and Surrender, and throughout the underappreciated Come With Us, The Chemical Brothers have run through the techno gamut in the songs that they have created. After doing so many different things over their previous four releases, it would seem that Push the Button would probably follow one of two paths—a complete rehash of something that had previously done or a jump into a rather unexplored region. They chose the latter. Fans looking for another Dig Your Own Hole are, unfortunately, going to be disappointed by this, as their latest finds The Chemical Brothers branching out into a decidedly ambient direction. Don’t be fooled, however, into thinking that this is solely an ambient disc, as there are still plenty of danceable tracks to be found on here, two of the best being “Galvanize” and “Come Inside,” but the focus of this offering definitely lies in mellower and more experimental territory.

The quick, rapid-fire dance beats of their more well know songs are now harder to find and have been replaced throughout a portion of the disc by down-tempo, almost Moby-ish, ambient beats. Building off of these slower beats are songs that feel more laid back and free flowing than most of what they’ve done in the past. “Close Your Eyes,” for one, feels like a modern lullaby for club goers, and “Marvo Ging” comes across like it was made for the sole purpose of being attached to trendy television advertisements.

Besides trying their hand at mellowing out, The Chemical Brothers also try their hand at integrating some hip hop stylings, which you see take center stage on “Left Right,” which oddly sounds like it could have been placed on any one of the major current rap artist’s discs as opposed to this one. It feels out of place and should have probably been left on the cutting room floor.

Underneath all of these new influences, however, are still some of The Chemical Brothers’ trademark sounds. Listening to songs such as “Galvanize” easily clues the listener in to who they’re listening to and it’ll get you off your chair and moving in no time. It’s just too bad that there couldn’t have been a few more uptempo moments throughout this disc.

With the experimentation found on this disc, Push the Button feels a little loose and comes off far less tight as their past offerings, but it is still a relatively good, if eclectic, disc to listen to. This lack of focus may lead it to become one of The Chemical Brothers’ lesser known discs, but it is still a solid addition to their catalog and I’m sure we’ll all hear at least one of the songs in a movie or an advertisement within the next year or so.

I Want This Guy's Job

My mother is a professional photographer. Not one of those that takes pictures for National Geographic or Playboy (although if she did photograph for either, it'd probably be pretty sweet), but one of those that does family portraits, senior pictures, and weddings. When she gets her film developed, traditionally the lab would send back proofs that she would look at and work with, doing manual cropping and whatnot, but in the last year or two the lab has switched to using a computer program for all of the cropping and detail work. Instead of sending her proofs, she simply has to download digital proofs, manipulate them within their proprietary program, and then digitally submit her order. Simple as that... except for the software upgrade that had to be installed on my mom's computer. Now it should be noted that this story is being told from what I overheard while talking with my mom during this ordeal and what she told me when I got home.

Anyways, my mom is relatively computer dumb, as are most people in her age group, so a lot of the time I end up having to show her how to do things and help her with computer tasks. Well, I wasn't around to help her install the latest version of her photography software so a rep from the company who makes the software came down to install it, as well as look at some other photography related stuff.

As he tried to install the program, he noticed it wasn't working. He tried and tried again, but it would't install right. Well, since the program uses java, he thought that maybe the computer didn't have java on it (which, of course, it did). So our genius tech goes out onto the magical thing that is the internet and tries to find java. So he goes to and finds the downloads section. At this point, my mother calls me at work.

She informs of what they're doing and what they've tried to do and asks me what to do when the tech clicks on the link for java and it pops up an error that says to "Save as" or "Open". I tell her simply to save it and then install it. So he clicks the "Save as" button. Now I tell them where to save it and to run it. They do so, and I figure my job is done.

Later, when I get home, I ask my mom if everything worked out ok. She told me that it didn't. They installed java and tried running the installer again, but it just kept going through the install process without putting the icon on the desktop for it, which I'm assuming the tech thought was the program since he was a pretty brain dead tech. I looked things over and there was definitely something installed for the program, but it wouldn't run and didn't have the icon on the desktop that it wasn't supposed to.

She told me that before the tech left that he'd never ran into this problem before. As he was trying to figure out what was different about her computer, he noticed that they were using Mozilla to go on the internet. He resoundingly decided he then knew why the program wouldn't install right--my mom had Mozilla on her computer. It wasn't IE and was obviously what was causing the problem. My bet is he thought that the evil dinosaur browser must have hijacked the computer and not allowed any other programs to be installed or something.

A few days later, we find out that the reason the program wouldn't work is that it isn't java jre 1.5 compliant and since I keep my parents' computers up to date, I had the latest java on there. Once they sent a new compliant version of the software out, it worked fine.

What I want to know is how this tech got his job. Honestly, I know sixth graders with 10 times as much computer knowledge as this guy, yet he's hired to help out customers with his company's software. Un-frickin-believable. I wonder how much he's getting paid for doing what he does. If I were to find out it's more than I make, I might seriously consider applying for his job and quitting mine because I can easily handle going to people's houses and acting like an idiot for 8 hours a day. Heck, I do that when I'm not working!

Calvin & Hobbes Snowmen

I am a gigantic Calvin & Hobbes fan. I own every book, read every strip, and have used one or the other for message board avatars at one time or another. Some of the most interesting strips for me, a resident of the snowy state of Minnesota, were the snowman strips. These were the strips where Calvin would build horribly grotesque snowmen. They would either serve the purpose of making some biting social commentary or just look neat. I've always thought about making my own versions of the myriad of snowmen depicted in the Calvin & Hobbes strips, but I never had the time or ambition (mostly ambition--it's not fun staying out in the cold) to do so.

Thankfully, not every C&H fan is nearly as unambitious as I. I stumbled across this gallery of photos of snowmen made to mimic the C&H scenes. Some of them are just dumb, but others are neat. It's great to see that even after many years since the last published strip, people are still playing off of what was written in them!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Penis Land

Rick: so, an online pen retailor decided that a good company name would be "Pen Island" Now when you put that into url form and look at it closely, what does it appear to read instead? ""
Nate: yeah, but i'll bet they got a lot more hits that way
Rick: yeah, i suppose. i just find it hilarious. can you imagine the board meeting where they came up with that name?
Nate: i can guarentee there was a disgruntled engineer and tech writer snickering the back of the conference room.
Rick: hahahaha, no doubt... actually, probably just an engineer b/c the tech writer tries to skip every meeting possible
Nate: heh. yeah, and what would a pen company need a full time tech writer for anyway? Step 1: Click. Step 2: Write. If any problems, repeat steps 1 and 2.
Rick: True

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A Hippie? A Frickin' Hippie???

After taking this quiz that I found while reading Ryan's site, I found out that my personality type is that of a hippie. Yay... I guess. Here's what the quiz had to say about me:
Wackiness: 16/100
Rationality: 50/100
Constructiveness: 60/100
Leadership: 36/100

You are a SECF--Sober Emotional Constructive Follower. This makes you a Hippie.

You are passionate about your causes and steadfast in your commitments. Once you've made up your mind, no one can convince you otherwise. Your politics are left-leaning, and your lifestyle choices decidedly temperate and chaste.

You do tremendous work when focused, but usually you operate somewhat distracted. You blow hot and cold, and while you normally endeavor on the side of goodness and truth, you have a massive mean streak which is not to be taken lightly. You don't get mad, you get even.

Of the 80324 people who have taken this quiz since tracking began (8/17/2004), 10.6 % are this type.

Kill Your Idols - From Championship to Competition CD Review

Back when I used to listen only to metal, I had a cartoon lampooning the punk genre taped up on the wall in my room. In this cartoon, a drummer and a guitarist/vocalist are getting ready to put on their first concert, but they’ve never actually played anything before and got the gig on accident. The vocalist turns to the drummer and asks what he should do. The drummer looks back at him and says, “I don’t know, just play really fast and yell into the mic. They’ll think we’re a hardcore band and love us.”

Since those days, my tastes have expanded to encompass the gamut of musical genres, but I still think there is a lot of truth to the words in that cartoon. As much as I enjoy some hardcore bands, it is easily one of the least evolving genres of heavy music. It’s often hard to tell the difference between a hardcore band from 1990 and 2005 because there has been virtually no change to the dominant style of the genre. Some will argue that this is hardcore’s strength, yet I feel it is what is holding the genre back.

Kill Your Idols could just as easily have released this disc in 1990 as they could have today. There is absolutely nothing new brought to the musical table, which in most cases would relegate a band to obscurity, yet for some reason this lack of musical innovation will be heralded as an astounding success by the hardcore set. It’s quite apparent that the point of being a hardcore band is to see how little you can change over time, and Kill Your Idols has definitely not done anything new with the hardcore template on this release.

Kill Your Idols does exactly what every other hardcore band in their lineage have done before them. They play one and a half to two and a half minute songs. They keep the tempo fast. They spit out yelled vocals in a rapid fire manner. They have distorted, quick paced chord progressions and hammering drums. In essences they also have nothing original to call their own. So I suppose if you’re a hardcore nut this cd is another perfect release to add to your collection, but if you want innovation, evolution, and something that sounds distinct from its peers, then look elsewhere because Kill Your Idols does none of these things.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Hershey's Double Chocolate

Hershey, always looking to expand upon their basic chocolate candy bar that has been around since the dawn of the candy age, has a new creation out, the Hershey Double Chocolate (I actually don't know if they are new or not, but I only found out about their existence today).

I figured I'd give it a shot since they were on special at Kwik Trip while I was in paying for my gas. I like chocolate, so with double the chocolate, how could you go wrong? In most cases, you wouldn't be able to, but one out of the two Double Chocolate candy bars I got caused me more grief than it's freeness was worth.

The reason the candy bar is called "double chocolate" is because inside of the four square divisions of the chocolate bar is a resivoir of gooey chocolate creme. The combination of the the standard Hershey chocolate with the cremey chocolate center leads to a very euphoric chocolate taste that will leave your eyes rolling back in your head and your tongue hanging out of your mouth. Yeah, it really is that good.

Then, there's the downside. If you've purchased one of the double chocolate candy bars that has had one of it's four squares punctured or broken open in any way, be prepared for a sticky mess that'll be harder to clean up than a superglue rainshower.

When I opened mine up, the end cube had been broken open and all the goo of that cube had bonded itself to the outside wrapper as well as all of the other cubes. Since I wanted so badly to try Hershey's wonderful confection of chocolatey goodness, I stupidly just grabbed the broken cube and proceeded to remove it from the wrapper. What they fail to mention anywhere on the wrapper is that the gooey chocolate has the same properties as melted mozzarella cheese.

With three of my fingers and my thumb thoroughly goo-ified, I tried removing the wrapper from the candy bar to throw it away. In the process, I created a spider's web of chocolate strands, some breaking apart and getting on my desk and pants. After manipulating the mass goo strands, I stuck the broken chocolate square in my mouth and proceeded to enjoy every bit of it... except for the mess on my hands. I tried licking most of the chocolate goo off, but it was just so damn sticky, I couldn't get it all off. After a trip to the bathroom and an encounter with soap dispenser, the chocolate sticky-icky was finally off of my hands. Finally, after all of that time and effort, I had consumed one chocolate brick.

As I settled back into my cube, I realized I had just wasted about 10 minutes of my time on one stupid chocolate square. Then I saw I had three more left, so you can only imagine how I spent the next half hour.

A Weekend with Underminded

Other than the giant-ass blizzard we had over the weekend and the fact that my arm wasn't getting better, it was actually a pretty good time. Saturday afternoon the guys from the band Underminded stopped in along with Aaron from Decoy and Jared from college. Underminded just finished up a tour in Canada and were leaving for a tour in Europe on Sunday from Rochester, so they came down and stayed for the day. They would have made it Friday evening if not for the crapload of snow that rained down on almost all of Minnesota over Friday and Saturday.

With Kristin gone and not many people I know here around Rochester, it was actually very nice to have my house filled up with friends for a day. It had the feeling of a college atmosphere, which is something I miss. Having people to sit around and play Halo 2 with, to watch a movie with, to talk with, to watch play music, and to just have around was a jumpstart that I needed. With the constant aching in my arm and the forced isolation because of it, I think just having friends around did a better job of making my arm feel better than any amount of ibuprofen.

It was a great time and I hope they have a fun tour in Europe. I'm 110% jealous, but I'll get to hear all about it when they get back in mid-February. Around that time, I think they're also going to try to play somewhere in the Twin Cities. It'd be nice to see them play again since I haven't seen them play live since Warped Tour (playing in my mom's studio doesn't count since there was no crowd to rip it up).

Friday, January 21, 2005

Big Boy Toybox 004

Here's the fourth in the series:

My Little Fred

Right now, I think having that happen to my arm might be less painful than the damn nerve injury I'm putting up with... or at least I hope it's just a nerve injury. It feels like something is festering in the recesses of my arm, waiting for just the right moment to explode out of it and eat the remainder of my body as it's first meal. I will call it Fred, the distant cousin of those cute little Gieger designed aliens from those Sigourney Weaver movies that popped out of people's stomachs. Fred differs in that he's purple, likes candy, speaks French, and grows in your arm.

Assuming I can convince Fred not to eat my body, which could be hard since I don't know French, I'll keep him as my pet. I'll give him a good will offering of the remainder of my left arm, after he's exploded out of it. Really, I don't think I'd be able to salvage it, and I'd rather not have the dogs eating it, so Fred should at least get a good meal out of it.

Only having one arm, it'll be pretty hard for me to continue my job as a technical writer since typing requires two hands. But wait... I might have lost an arm, but I gained a little alien friend! If I could train him to use the keyboard, he could be my very own dictation pet! I could talk and he'd run around on the keyboard typing what I say. With my remaining hand, I could run the mouse and it'd be like I had three arms instead of two! I would be the most productive worker in the office, which would lead to me getting my own office and a huge raise (which I would have eventually taken anyhow after I had Fred eat a few of my coworkers).

With my new high-paying job, I could hammer out a few years of work, save up a ton of money, and retire early. Then I could travel the world and enjoy the rest of my life without having to work. It would be wonderful, and it all came from a little bit of pain. I'd say it would be worth it.

......eerrrrggg...... come on........ GRUNT...... aaarrrgggghhh..... just pop out Fred! Come on, stop hiding in there....... come. out. NOW!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Four Long Years

Well, as of today, we're stuck with four more years of Bush attempting to run our country. I have a bad feeling about it. Really, I'm kind of scared about what he could do in the coming years, especially with a Republican House and Senate, but we'll all just have to make the best of it. So to make the best of today, Bush's inauguration day, watch this. It'll put a smile on your face.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

We Just Battle Ourselves Again

It's amazing sometimes how little, tiny things can illicit memories and emotions associated with the past without your really knowing it. More often than not, it's a combination of little things that make my mind swirl in the vapors of nostalgia. Memories, such wonderful things, yet also haunting in nature.

With one of my current projects here at work drawing to a close, I am finding myself more and more experiencing the emotions that I was filled with at about the same time last year--feelings of change, fright, dread... and tying those together, a melancholy happiness.

As I entered the real world, putting the wonderful years of college behind me for good, I felt like life was over. College, often billed as the time of your life, turned out to be exactly like its description. Being surrounded by friends, defining each day around a very flexible schedule, having so many options for activities at your fingertips, and being near the one you loved all led to a euphoric, fast-paced few years. Just as I was finally coming into my own in college and truly experiencing everything the environment had to offer, I was handed a diploma and told to go about my life.

I was horribly depressed for the first few months after graduation and often found myself withdrawing into seclusion. The biggest difference between my life in college and my new life in the real world could be seen in the moments I had to decide what I wanted to do. During college, I would use every moment possible to spend with friends, to socialize with classmates, to play sports, and to be with Kristin. Once I was thrust into the 8-5 workday world, away from all that I had become used to, I took those free moments and used them to pull away from the world around me. I didn't want this new life and I didn't like it. I wanted to be back in college.

As time went on, the feelings of longing started to subside and my abhorrence for the working life started to fade. There was a problem, however. As those emotions faded, there was nothing left to fill the void--I was overcome with an empty feeling. Thankfully, Kristin had always been around to take my mind off of that emptiness, and to easily fill that hole... well, except for right now, and except for the next few months.

With her abroad, my longing for what I used to have and my distaste for the working life have returned with a vengeance. My time at work moves at a snail's pace and my free time at home, which usually flies by, appears to move by equally slow. I feel directionless, aimless, apathetic, and emotionally disconnected to the world around me. Even after a year of work I have not been able to truly acclimate myself to having to work instead of being able to learn.

Throughout the last few pain filled days I've thought about what I want to accomplish in life. If I were to die tomorrow, what would I have left undone that I had wanted to do? If I were to die in 20 years, what would I want to have done by then? If I lived until the ripe old age of 80, what would I want to be able to look back upon and smile at? I asked myself those questions over and over again and no matter how many times I did, I couldn't for the life of me come up with any answers. All that came to me was a strong feeling of nostalgia for the life I used to lead, the life I now look back on and miss.

What's missing? What don't I have that I need? I sometimes think I know what I need to do, what the next step in life is, but I've been too afraid to act upon it because I'm afraid it might not turn out like I often imagine it would, and then what would I do? My final gambit for filling the void a failure...

Soul searching is something I always scoffed at. When people would tell me they needed to do some soul searching, I would often see it as nothing more than an excuse to avoid a decision. I'd even used it in my past for that purpose. Now, however, I see that it can be an essential step in finding out exactly who you are and what purpose you derive for yourself in life. This self-imposed seclusion, in the time of Kristin's absence, could be just what I need even though I don't feel as if it's the right thing. Maybe this is just the nerve pain talking. I can't say exactly...

Nerve Damage

I finally got in to see the doctor about the intense pain I've been having in my left arm and shouder area. He poked and prodded and pushed and pulled and did all kinds of contortions to my arm and shoulder, none of what he was doing causing any pain. Upon completion of his rigorous testing of my joint, he concluded that there was no muscle, bone, or tendon damage. He was pretty much 100% sure it was a problem with a nerve bundle that is in my shoulder.

This nerve bundle serves as kind of a transfer station. All of the nerves from my arm, the inside of my left torso, and my left pec all send and receive nerve signals through this nerve bundle. The most likely problem is that there is a viral inflamation around the nerve bundle. Because of this pressure and stress around the nerves, it transmits pain throughout my left arm and side (which is exactly what I've been having a ton of). So what is the cure? Time. My body will naturally take care of the viral inflamation in a period of around 2 weeks or so. In the time that my body is dealing with it, I can expect a lot of pain. Yep, that's right, it's one of those things that have to "get worse before it gets better". To help me through the doc told me to take 2400 mg of ibuprofen a day. Woot! He said he could have provided me with some neural inhibiting drugs to help even more, but they're expensive... so I'll just have to stick with ibuprofen.

If it's not a viral inflamation, it could be a form of shingles (I think that's what he called it) that affects only nerve tissue. It would cause the same symptoms, but usually there is some weakness or numbness with the pain. I have neither right now. If it is shingles, again, the treatment would be time and possibly some antibiotics.

The third, and least likely, thing it could be is some neural infection where my nerves and muscles in the area of the infection would atrophy. This infection is usually accompanied by noticeable weakness, though, which I don't have. If I do start to experience weakness or prolonged numbness I'm supposed to go in asap so a neurologist can make a diagnosis because this type of infection needs to be treated fast so that the nerves and/or muscles don't atrophy to a point where major, permanent damage is done.

The doctor can't be completely sure what it is because they'd need to take a sample of the nerve tissue or do some type of MRI or other type of imaging on the affected area and both of them are again very expensive. I know because the MRI I had this last summer cost me around $800. So, barring noticeable weakness or numbness, I just have to deal with the pain for the foreseeable future as my body takes care of it. Thankfully, I can still work out and do all of my normal everyday activities since there's no problem with my musculature or joints.

So, yeah, I'm going to be slightly grumpy for a while since I'm in constant pain, but once it subsides I should be back to normal. Freakin' nerves and viruses and inflamations and crap ruining my week. God sure likes to kick me when I'm down. I'm trying to deal with Kristin being a continent away (not very well, I might add) and then I have to come down with this stupid crap. Ugghh. Oh yeah, that and I might be developing high blood pressure because of my genetics. Frickin' yay.

Fozzy - All that Remains CD Review

What do you get when you mix a crappy metal band led by former Stuck Mojo band member Rich Ward with professional wrestler Chris Jericho on vocals? Answer: A band that is a joke. They initially started out as a Spinal Tap-esque band covering bad 80’s music, but now they try their hand at a more serious cd it seems, and in doing so they create an even bigger joke.

For anyone that listened to Stuck Mojo, the sound of this cd will be very familiar (except the vocals, of course). Everything sounds exactly like what the next release from Stuck Mojo would have sounded like, except for the lack of rapping and the addition of Jericho’s faux Ozzy styled voice. The simple, yet forceful drumming is still present, as well as the basic guitar playing, accentuated by the occasional solo or breakdown, and this worked in the past for Stuck Mojo, but not any more. I think it worked in the past, at least to a small extent, because of the multi-tiered vocal approach that was used. Here, however, Jericho is the only vocal force and he fails miserably at filing the lead vocalist’s role.

I keep trying to think of a good way to convey the sucktitude of this cd, and the best analogy I can think of is that Fozzy is like that one annoying guy you know who thinks he’s the shit, but in reality he’s just an annoying prick that continually pisses people off because he’s not nearly as cool as he wants everyone to think he is. I’m sure Fozzy think they’re the shit by combining wrestling and music and attempting to do something different, but it just falls on its face—hard. When I think about it, though, anyone who would think that combining a wrestler with a metal band might be a good idea has got to be pretty sketchy to begin with.

There is one shining gem out of the 10 tracks on this disc, however, and that is the last song—“Born of Anger”. In it Jericho’s vocals take a back seat to vicious growls and the music takes a decidedly heavy turn to create a killer song. If the entire cd took on the traits of this song, it would have been great, but it didn’t. Instead, they wallow in crappy, muddled metal that will really only interest people who are still stuck in the early 90’s or are obsessed with anything involving wrestling.

Fantastic Four Trailer

So if you're a comic book geek in the least, and especially if you were one of the people who were thoroughly let down by Elektra, the new Fantastic Four trailer is up online for your viewing pleasure.

After all that I've read about the movie before the trailer came out, I've felt deep down that it was going to be a train wreck of a movie. I thought for sure it would be Marvel's first big flop (which actually went to Elektra, I see now). I had a really hard time seeing the Fantastic Four being an enjoyable team of superheroes to watch, especially after The Incredibles did such a good job of mimicing what a FF four movie should be like.

The style of the trailer definitely was of a different tone than I had expected. Whenever I'd read interviews with people working on the movie or involved with its development, it felt like they were going to be making a light hearted, almost comedic style of movie. The trailer is definitely not in this vein.

With a dark, haunting A Perfect Circle song playing in the background, the viewer is treated to some spectacular space shots followed by a look at the menacing Dr. Doom. You also see the members of the Fantastic Four, but not comedically at all. Instead, the trailer is playing up this movie to be a serious look at the FF, much like the X-Men movies attempted to be very realistic.

If the actual movie is going to downplay the comedic angle and play up the serious side of the FF, you can bet I'll be one of the first people in line to see it!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

How Old Do You Act?

I found this on Greg's site and decided to try it out. Glad to see that I act about 5 years younger than I actually am!

You Are 18 Years Old


Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Who Knows What Tomorrow Brings?

Looking to the future, I think about the past
Everything I want in life, I know will never last
I try to believe that there's a tomorrow
I try to revel in today's warm glow
But there's something hanging over me
Blocking everything, I find it hard to see
Stuck in the shadow of regret
So many things I want to accomplish yet
I have so many plans to fulfill
But who knows if I'll be here still
I always thought I'd live forever
Believing I'd die almost never
Now all alone and filled with pain
I see that my plans may be in vain
Each night as I lie in bed
My thoughts and hopes are clouded by dread
In the morning will I open up my eyes
Or will my body be greeted with loud cries
In the dark recesses of my mind
Are thoughts of a very scared kind
Knowing time is running out
I wish I could've taken another route
Leaving so many things to do later
With time's passing growing greater
So much I'll probably never get to do
So many things planned for me and you
All because I wasted so many days
Doing nothing in so many different ways
Don't wait to do what's in your heart
Or it may never even get a chance to start

With that said, my arm has been aching like crazy all day. The last few days it's been somewhat sore and achy when I got up in the morning, but it eventually went away. Today, however, it's just been a continual source of pain. It's like the entirety of my arm from my shoulder to my elbow is had the bejesus beat out of it... except there's no bruising or anything, just the pain. I'm going to the doc tomorrow to see if he can tell me what's up. Hopefully it's just a pinched nerve or strained muscle group or something. When I was looking through webMD for things that matched my symptoms two of the higher matching search results were for muscular dystrophy and bone cancer... Let's hope it's neither of those, or anything that's as equally bad.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Big Boy Toybox 003

I finished the third strip in the Big Boy Toybox series. Unfortunately, I found out that is already registered so I might have to rename the strip. Any thoughts on a title? Anyhow, again, any feedback would be appreciated. Thanks. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 15, 2005

New RSS Feed!

For those of you who subscribe to this site via RSS, I have a new feed. Please use this feed instead of the old one as this will be a more efficient and usable feed as compared to the last one. The new feed is: Thanks!

Friday, January 14, 2005

Big Boy Toybox 001 and 002

As some of you might remember, I've been talking about putting together and online comic strip of some sort, more than likely starring many of my numerous action figures. Well, I've put together a couple of test strips just to see how long it would take me to create new strips. I figure if I actually do get off the ground with this thing (I need to design a site and possibly put together some type of interface for posting new strips) I would be able to put up a new strip once or twice a week, depending upon how much free time I devote to it.

To test the waters, below are my first two strips. Any feedback would be much appreciated. I'm going to try to hammer out at least 10 strips before I think about starting up a site devoted to it. There wouldn't be anything worse than right after I got it off the ground, something happens and I'm not able to update it for a bit. I wouldn't want people to be turned off to it that quickly. So for the time being, I'll just post my strips as they are finished here and you can all tell me what you think. So... here they are (click on the image for a larger version).

Thursday, January 13, 2005

TMNT Obsession!

Since the flood to our basement a few months ago, my mother has been going through a lot of the old junk that was in our storage room since it's now spread all over the basement because of the damage the flood caused. In going through all of this junk, we've managed to toss out a lot of stuff and I've personally used this opportunity to go through all of my crap, somewhat slowly, and donate all of my old stuff.

I really don't like clutter, even though I manage to let my cubicle, my room, and my comic collection get that way. Eventually the clutter will get to the point where I either need to do something about it or start figuring out what size of straight jacket I'd wear. I've managed to give away about 10 bags full of clothes that I no longer wear. I don't know how much the Salvation Army can make use of tight 80's styled jeans and Scooby Doo t-shirts, but I'm sure there's someone out there who can benefit from them. In my defense, not everything I've donated has been outdated junk. I went through all of my dress clothes as well and weeded them down to only the outfits I still wear. Anything extraneous got the boot.

Anyhow, back to my mom going through her crap. As she was leafing through a bunch of papers, she found a couple of things that I found very interesting. The first was an autographed photo of an old Vikings player, Bob Lutsema. I've never heard of him, but I obviously met him at one point in my childhood, and when I did meet him he signed a picture and made it out to me. Check it out:

One other thing my mother found that I found to be interesting was a letter that I wrote to my mom when I was 9 (which for those of you not knowing my exact age, would date back to 1990). What amazes me the most is that I not only wrote my mom a letter and illustrated it, but that I actually went and mailed this letter to her instead of just giving it to her.

The tone of the letter was also a little negative. Apparently my mother had taken me shopping and I didn't like going very much. I told her that I loved her, but I would like if she never took me shopping EVER AGAIN. I then told her to view a particular episode of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle tv show in order to truly grasp my point. After that I proceeded to tell her that I liked going to movies with her, that I liked movies, that I liked the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles move, and that I again hated shopping. To cap off this wonderful letter, I told her to flip over the page because I drew a picture of my favorite movie characters (surprise, surprise) the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This wonderful illustration can be seen in all of its glory below:

From this illustration, you should note two things. 1) I can't spell Raphael's name right (Raphial is how I did it here). 2) I absolutely suck at drawing.

Invocation of Nehek Self Titled CD Review

Straight ahead, full-on metal, like the style played by Unearth or Lamb of God, is sometimes a hard genre to review. The key elements of this metal genre are screaming/yelling vocals, heavy drumming, and intense guitar work (often accompanied by either crunchy breakdowns or shredding). Most bands in this genre usually possess all of these features and use them well, so a lot of the time deciding which band is good and which is bad can be a hard decision. In fact, when it comes down to it, with a lot of metal bands it’s all about the feel of the music.

Invocation of Nehek possess all of the metal genre prerequisites, but the “feel” of their self-titled disc isn’t quite in the same league as many of their compatriots. The biggest turn-off to this disc is probably the “feel” of the vocals. Most of the time they sound like a more aggressive Atreyu, but some of the higher pitched screaming can become grating. Their best vocal moments come in their breakdowns where you’re treated to unmitigated growling textured over crunching guitars and pummeling drums. A couple other places that the vocals are slightly hurt are the few moments where a stab at melody is made. On “A Picture’s Worth”, the intro to the song is made up of melodic vocals over down-tempo guitar plucking, which eventually leads into the meat of the song. During this intro, and the melodic bridge later on in the song, the melodic approach doesn’t feel natural and instead comes off as being very forced and unnatural.

With all of that said, this is a pretty solid metal disc. You’ll get your usual amount of breakdowns, shredding, and mosh pit inducing choruses and nothing much more. Invocation of Nehek won’t stand out in a crowd, either negatively or positively, so you can consider it a safe, if unremarkable, cd to pick up.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Video Game Sounds

How well do you remember the sounds and music from video games in the 80's? I did pretty well getting about 75% right. I was amazed at how many memories playing this brought back. I had so many flashbacks to playing my Atari 2600. Asteroids, Missle Command, some space buggy game, and of course ET.

I must have put in countless hours on ET and I'm pretty sure every minute that I spent playing that game, I had absolutely no clue what was going on. I'd basically run around and have ET do his neck extension and listen to the wierd sound effect that accompanied it. To this day, I do not know what the point of anything you did in that game was.

I also played a bunch of Colecovision (I think that's how it's spelled) at my neighbor's place... and by neighbor, I mean friend that lived 6 miles away... in the country anyone within a 10 mile radius is your neighbor... because there's only like 10 people in that area anyways.

I can't really remember many of the games we played on the Colecovision, though, which is really weird. I think we might have played Pitfall and Qbert, but there were also a bunch of really weird games that we played that I can't remember the names of. One was a temple raiding game. I think it was a pretty blatant ripoff of Indiana Jones, if memory serves me right. There was also some sci-fi game we played, but I can't remember what it was about.

It makes me wonder what video games will be like in 10 or 15 years when my kids are playing the latest, greatest game and I'm feeling nostalgic over Halo, Unreal Tournament, and Mario Kart. Will there be as much of a difference between the games I'm now and what I'm playing in 15 years as there was between what I was playing when I was 8 and now? I can't imagine there would be, but who knows.

You Website as a Living Room

This site will, interestingly enough, take any website and parse the elements into the various parts of a mock living room. I tried it with mine and it came out interestingly enough. One of the wall hangings was the Doom III image below, which was funny. One thing I must warn you about before you check this site out--it is a freakin' resource hog and is written in flash. On my 3 Ghz machine with 1 GB of RAM, it was still eating up about 80% of my cpu cycles for as long as the site was open. Even when the site wasn't doing anything it was eating that much cpu. Whoever designed the thing should work on doing some optimization to the app.

Just to see how an older computer would work with the site, I had my 500 Mhz Celeron laptop with 512 MB of RAM load the site up. It took forever to parse any site I gave it and trying to navigate through the virtual room was a chore. Yeah, so this site definitely needs some optimizing, but it's still an interesting little diversion.

Hmm... I just noticed it's version 2.5. I can't imagine how crappy the previous couple of versions must have been...

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A Metaphor for Life

With Kristin being gone down in Central America, I've had a few days without her around to reflect upon the time we spent together before she left. In the preceding weeks before she had to step onto that plane bound for Granada, we had planned to do so much. We were going to beat X-Men Legends. We were going to watch the extended version of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. We were going to get out on the 4 wheeler in the snow. We were going to watch all of the episodes of Smallville that we hadn't seen yet. We were going to bake cookies. We were going to do a lot of things.

In the time that we had together we managed to bake cookies and watch Smallville and get pretty close to the end of X-Men Legends, but a lot of other things didn't happen. We never had 4+ hours in a row to dedicate to Return of the King. Some of the days weren't that hospitable out so we skipped riding the 4 wheeler in hopes that it would get nicer out. Other little things that we wanted to do, we also didn't get done.

As it came time to drive Kristin to the airport, I started thinking about what we had planned to do and what we actually got around to doing. Too many other activities, chores, and tasks interrupted our well laid out plans. She had to pack up for her trip. I had to help with chores. My brother had people over when we had things planned. Other things got in the way. Sure, we got to do some of what we wanted, but we didn't get to do it all and I felt sad that we didn't get to do everything we had planned.

The comforting thought that offset some of the sadness was that she'd be back in four months and we could get around to doing everything we'd missed out on doing before she left. Our plans were merely put on a four month hiatus and we could resume them at a later date.

In many ways, those couple of weeks before Kristin left mirrored what it is to be a mortal human being. We all have so many plans. I want to go back to grad school. I want to publish some of my ideas for comic books. I want to read so many books. I want to do so many things, but no doubt the realities of life will get in the way. I have to go to work. I might not have enough time to dedicate to scripting some of my ideas. I might not have enough money to go back to school. Life will get in the way of my plans.

Time will go on, much like it did when I was with Kristin, and before I know it I'll be on my deathbed, or Kristin will be walking through the gate at the airport. The difference between having Kristin fly away and death is that Kristin will be coming back. Once I pass on, my plans aren't put on hiatus--they're simply left to flutter away into the abyss of good plans that were never executed.

We all seem to have so many plans, but realistically will we get to all of them? I highly doubt it, and that's a scary thought. Complementing that thought, though, is the notion that we will complete some of our plans and we should take joy from what we do accomplish. I've also found that I need to prioritize what I want to do. Just having a ton of plans and hoping that some of them happen isn't productive, but prioritizing what you want to accomplish and focusing on those goals can help you to reach many of your lesser goals that you might not have reached.

Kristin and I put spending time together, in any fashion, as our #1 priority. I wasn't seeing that clearly when I was thinking about all of what we didn't get to do. I was too caught up in being unhappy about what we missed out on that it was clouding the fact that we did exactly what we wanted to do and because of that, I could leave her at the airport (and her board her plane) with a notion of happiness permeating through all of the sadness of her leaving. I pray that in the hours before my death I can also feel that same mix of sadness that comes with leaving mixed with a happiness that I did what was important to me.

Monday, January 10, 2005

2005 Tech Predictions

Robert X. Cringely has released his predictions for 2005. I have always found his predictions to be somewhat interesting and this year's are no different. I have some comments on a couple, however.
4) The Recording Industries Association of America will continue to sue customers while their business slowly dissolves. The big threat here isn't file swapping, but affiliate programs like Apple's iTunes Affiliate Program that I am sure will be shortly copied by all the online music stores. These affiliate programs turn bloggers into shills and blogs into record stores, with the result that record company's last source of power -- marketing clout -- is taken away. This will take time, but it is the beginning of the end for old-style record companies.
I see the RIAA making some last ditch efforts to stymie online growth by increased lawsuits against illegal trading in order to put a negative stigma on all online music distribution, legal or not. The biggest reason that I listen to internet radio as opposed to regular radio is that there is actually music being played that I want to hear as opposed to the crap that is paid to be played on corporate radio. I think the same goes for iTunes and its Affiliate Program. People can find music they actually like and purchase it through iTunes instead of going to Walmart or Best Buy and only being able to find the music that is put out by the large, controlling record labels.

I think there will also be at least one gigantic lawsuit, either in dollar amount or in media coverage, that finally gives the RIAA such an evil connotation to the masses, not just the music elite, that they have to at least start to capitulate to the online music sale model.
6) VoIP will continue to shatter the telephone industry with the arrival of WiFi phones, which might finally be the killer app for hotspots. Eventually, all the backbone suppliers will figure out that VoIP is their salvation and will either start their own VoIP companies or ally with big VoIP players.
I don't know about this one. So far from what I've seen and heard, VoIP isn't all it's cracked up to be. We use some VoIP for our internal office network here at work and the software is slick, if sometimes a little cumbersome, but the hardware is the problem. With our instance of VoIP, the software we used was also tied to the hardware and the hardware sucks. The phones are some of the worst I've ever had to work with. I only see VoIP succeeding if there's some kick-ass hardware to go with it.
9) And speaking of MythTV, 2005 will start to show some innovative online video initiatives. Don't expect this until late in the year, but the networks are starting to figure out that control of the broadcast schedule is being taken over by the viewers in a TiVO world, while producers with big libraries are starting to realize they don't need a network to sell bad TV. Since this is a tide they can't stop, the networks will have to decide how best they can surf it. Expect some interesting attempts this year, most of which will fail.
I can see one thing happening with TiVO this year that will piss off a lot of customers--TiVO putting ads into recorded content. Since most people use a TiVO to skip the commercials of the TV they record, in order to recoup losses, advertisting firms make ties with TiVO to have ads run at the beginning or end of a recorded program. Either that, or it will be impossible for TiVO subscribers to fast forward or skip recorded commercials. If either of these things happens, I see TiVO dying a very fast death and another TiVO-esque company taking their spot.
15) Sony's PS3 will be delayed yet again, giving a real advantage to xBox2 IF Microsoft can get it out the door this year in volume.
I really, REALLY hope that this happens. In my opinion, the Xbox is a far superior system to the Playstation 2 and I'd love to see the Xbox2 take a huge chunk of the market share away from Sony. If anything, I think that making Xbox Live! an even bigger part of the Xbox2 will move more units off of the shelf. Sony's online support is ridiculous. Each game is responsible for providing its own servers, support, and interface. With Live! every game has a similar interface and you don't have to worry about some games having sucktacular online support and some having good support--they all use the Live! framework so the only thing holding a game's online experience back is the gameplay itself (and it's networking code, obviously). From a user interface standpoint, Live! kicks Sony's ass. Because it does, Microsoft needs to get consumers aware of this in order to get the Xbox2 a wide user base. It should be a lot easier to do that now as well since just about everyone is getting broadband.

You Send It

One of my fellow writers over at Decoy Music turned me on to an interesting little site called YouSendIt the other day. The premise of this site is that you can upload a file, up to 1 GB in size, and once it has uploaded the site will send an email to an address that you input. From that email, there will be a link that can be accessed to download the file that was uploaded.

This site works wonderfully so far. It's often been a hassle trying to get cds to people to review at decoy when the review needs to be done ASAP. Mailing out the promo cds that we receive and letting our reviewers do them at their own pace is usually the approach we take, but sometimes a review needs to be posted right away and we can't wait for that. Instead the cd will usually get ripped to mp3 and sent one way or another to the reviewer and then we'll just send the cd along at a later date.

It's often hard, depending upon different reviewer's firewall setups and whatnot, to get the mp3's to the reviewers. You can't email them since they're too big. AIM file transfer doesn't work through most firewalls. FTP is an option, but setting up and configuring an ftp client (and explaining to the reviewers how to use said FTP) is cumbersome. YouSendIt, however, works wonderfully with anyone's internet connection. It's just like downloading any other type of file from the internet.

What is also great about the site is that only the person you email the link to can get to it, unless that person emails the link on to other people, but the file you upload is deleted after a week so it's not just sitting out there forever.

This site, however, brings up a lot of questions. No doubt this service will be used for warez, movie, and music trading. I wonder how long it'll be until the RIAA or MPAA come after them and shut down the service. I also wonder how they finance this site. Sending gigantic files for free must build up a ton of bandwidth costs for the operators of the site. How do they finance it? They say they don't give third parties the email addresses that are input, but I wonder if that is really the case. According to their FAQ, they are financed through third party ads that are displayed on their web page. Funny, because I don't see any ads being displayed on their site.

I'm still a little bit skeptical about the site, but I sure can't fault it's operation. Being able to send gigantic files to people at speeds of 100-150 Kbps (that's the speeds I've gotten) is great.

RSJ - Blueprint for a Brighter Future CD Review

You want some metal? Some real metal? I’m not talking about that asstastic, wannabe metal you hear on the radio. I’m not talking about faux nu-metal. I’m talking about full-on, crunching, abrasive metal. You want thick, distorted guitars? You want all out screams and guttural yells? You want a heavy, thick bottom end? You want drums that pound on your eardrums? If you do, grab Blueprint for a Brighter Future by RSJ ASAP.

I was floored by the intensity on display throughout the four songs presented on this EP. Each song is unrelentingly heavy and brutal, so much so that my ears needed a break after my first listen. Amazingly, as well as being so heavy, RSJ include enough variations to their core sound to make each song its own. One song has a short start/stop section that pummels you one moment, pauses one moment, and then pummels you again. Another song has a small stab at melody, which came off quite well. Another song is just straight ahead metal fury. I think you get the picture. Honestly, the only thing that is wrong with this EP is that it isn’t longer! Do yourself a favor and give this EP a shot. Sure, it’s not even 20 minutes long, but you’ll end up spinning it more than you will most full length releases.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Kristin Left Today

She flew down to Nicaragua today. She'll be there and in Costa Rica until May. Rick is sad. The end.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

MS is Always Good for a Laugh

I was reading this article on Bill Gates' presentation at CES this year and, amazingly enough, his computer crashed while demoing something. Hasn't this happened to him like a billion times?

During a demonstration of digital photography with a soon-to-be-released Nikon camera, a Windows Media Center PC froze and wouldn't respond to Gates' pushing of the remote control.

Later in the 90-minute presentation, a product manager demonstrated the ostensible user-friendliness of a video game expected to hit retail stores in April, Forza Motor Sport. But instead of configuring a custom-designed race car, the computer monitor displayed the dreaded "blue screen of death" and warned, "out of system memory."
Do the people who go through and prepare everything he's going to be using for his presentation not actually check over some of the functions that Bill will be using? I mean if I was in charge of putting together the equipment and software that Bill would be demoing at one of the biggest electronic shows in the world, I'd make damn well sure that everything he was going to do would work.

When demoing the Forza Motor Sport game, a "blue screen of death" came up? What operating system were they using? Windows 98? In the extensive use of Windows XP both here at work and on the 5 PCs that my family has at home, I've never once gotten a blue screen of death from software. I've only gotten a blue screen when I've tried to add in faulty hardware. In those cases the blue screen would come up as the computer was booting before Windows XP was loaded.

I asked a couple of co-workers if they've ever ran into the blue screen of death on their WinXP systems while using them, and they never have. I wonder... maybe they were doing the demo on the next iteration of the Windows operating system and because of consumer demand the developers decided to add back in the much missed blue screen.

Frankly, I really miss the blue screen of death. Whenever it came up, you knew your computer session was hosed and you needed to restart. Now with WinXP your system just slowly degrades over time, getting odd errors here and there, seemingly getting slower, and then you just restart it because a program you need to run won't start up. You never know when your computer has reached the point of needing to be restarted to undo all of goofing up XP has done to your system. With the old versions of Windows when that point was reached, you'd see that blue screen and then hit that restart button. It was simple. You knew what to do.

We need error screens like the blue screen of death to make a comeback so all of the people suffering from "I'm too freakin' stupid to use a computer"-itis know when to stop goofing around and just reboot the damn thing.

Breach of Trust - Self Titled CD Review

The world needs another generic hard rock band about as much as it needs another world war, which is to say that we don’t really need either. From the opening song on Breach of Trust’s self titled debut, I sensed that I was going to have to listen to yet another emotional hard rock band that couldn’t do anything more than ape the sound of every other radio rock band. I’d rather be a baby kitten in the middle of a sadistic 10 year old boy’s torture session than hear another Nickelback clone. Oddly, though, the first song didn’t turn out that bad—a tad generic, but all in all a listenable slower paced emotional rock tune. Maybe, just maybe, this disc wouldn’t be as bad as I was thought it might be.

About halfway through the cd, I forgot all about the worries I had when I initially popped this disc in. Magnificently, Breach of Trust entered the hard rock arena, the odds stacked against them, and came out still breathing. They are a far cry from the cream of the crop in this genre, but they kept themselves from falling into the abyss of sheer suckage that most of their peers have.

The reasons for this cd not sucking are threefold. First, the disc isn’t overproduced. Each song is left to have enough of a rough feel to sound genuine as opposed to manufactured. Second, the vocal approach has a very down to earth feel. Marty, the lead vocalist, knows the limits of his voice and doesn’t try to go outside of his range or overexert his vocal chords, which gives every song a natural feeling. Lastly, there is enough variety between songs to keep the listener from getting bored. In this genre it is extremely easy to follow the same formula over and over again to fill up the contents of a release, but the variety on here avoids that pitfall.

There are a lot of bands out there playing emotional hard rock, some good and most bad, so it is sometimes hard to find bands that are appealing to the ears. Breach of Trust are one of the better bands you could grab. They’re not revolutionary, but they’re better than a lot of what’s out there.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

40 Most Obnoxious Quotes

In most cases I wouldn't read anything from, but they put up their Top 40 Most Obnoxious Quotes of 2004 list and there's some really good ones. A few of my favorites are below.
34) "Despite all of this stupid bullsh*t that the Republican National Committee, or whatever the f*ck they call them, that they were saying that they're all angry about how two of these ads were comparing Bush to Hitler? I mean, out of thousands of submissions, they find two. They're like f*cking looking for Hitler in a haystack. ...George Bush is not Hitler. He would be, if he f*cking applied himself." -- Margaret Cho at a MoveOn Award Ceremony
I got such a huge kick out of all of the Bush=Hitler arguments that were tossed around this year and Cho put it best. Sure, it's funny, but it also rings a little true. I can really see Bush just flipping the bird to the rest of the world and doing whatever he wants. I mean look at how well he's got most of the US brainwashed. Just about every other country in the world recognizes what a dangerous and stupid person he is in power, yet the majority of US citizens elected him back for another 4 years.
30) "Go f*ck yourself." -- Vice President Dick Cheney to Sen. Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor
Cheney is such a buttsniffer. I really hope he just keels over in office one of these days and does all of humanity a favor.
22) "I think we're at risk with our democracy. I think we're dealing with the most closed, imperialistic, nastiest administration in living memory. They even put Richard Nixon to shame." -- Wesley Clark
I kind of have to agree with this. Bush's big problem is he can never admit when he makes a mistake or won't ever own up to something not going like it should. Nixon might not have been a great leader either, but at least he at least kind of fessed up to screwing up. I wonder if in 20 or 30 years kids will go out on Halloween trick or treating wearing Bush masks much like the kids of today wear Nixon masks.
19) "Rove's re-election strategy was elegantly simple: Scare the bejesus out of Jesusland. F@ggots are headed your way! Satanic Muslims are hiding everywhere! That's all it took to get Jesusland to do the job. Intellectual conservatives like the National Review staff are flattering themselves if they honestly believe Jesusland cares about conservative thought. The "reality-based" folks are learning that Jesusland doesn't even care about jobs or the economy. In Jesusland, it's all the will of Jesus. No job? No money? Daughter got her clit pierced? Jesus is just f*cking with you again, testing your faith. Got the cancer? Oh well. Soon you'll be with Jesus. Reality is no match for a mystical world in which an all-powerful god is constantly toying with every detail of your mundane life, just to see what you'll do about it. Keep praying and always keep your eye out for homosexuals and terrorists, and you will eventually be rewarded ... all you have to do is die, and then it's SuperJesusLand, where you will be a ghost floating in a magic cloud with all the other ghosts from Jesusland, with Jesus Himself presiding over an Eternal Church Service." -- Blogger Ken Layne after Kerry went down to defeat in November
This quote makes me laugh like no other description of the election results. It's so funny because it is actually how Bush got some of his votes. He played up the religion aspect so much and it pissed me off even more every time he did it. The easy comment to make is that it was wrong because church and state should be separate, but the truth is a lot of people made their choice on their religious beliefs so why shouldn't Bush use it to his advantage? It's just too bad that most of the prominent forms of Christianity in this country are so conservative and intolerant of people different from them that the slightest scare of something different put them in Bush's pocket.
3) "I root for hurricanes. When, courtesy of the Weather Channel, I see one forming in the ocean off the coast of Africa, I find myself longing for it to become big and strong--Mother Nature's fist of fury, Gaia's stern rebuke. Considering the havoc mankind has wreaked upon nature with deforesting, stripmining, and the destruction of animal habitat, it only seems fair that nature get some of its own back and teach us that there are forces greater than our own." -- James Wolcott, Vanity Fair Contributing Editor
I wonder what he has to say now about the tsunami that kicked the shit out a chunk of southern Asia?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Christmas Loot!

Ah yes, Christmas has come and gone for a 23rd time (for me, of course) and with its passing, I am presented with another season's worth of loot. I know everyone always says it's better to give than to receive--and it is--but receiving is a close second to giving in my book. Even though I never really want as much any more, just getting a few new things around the holidays is neat. Knowing that people care about me and actually want to give me something other than a fist to the face or a sword through the abdomen is comforting. So, what did I get (other than what I already told you Kristin gave me)? That's what you all must be wondering, right? I know I'm often curious enough about other people's presents so here's some of the stuff I got this year:

I've been wanting to get Doom III since it came out simply to see if it's as scary as all of the reviews say it is. That, as well as seeing if my computer will run the beast period. Thankfully my grandma and grandpa (no doubt on hints from my parents) picked it up for me along with a couple of Top Shelf graphic novels. It'll be fun to play it on the 17" LCD monitor my parents gave me... well, helped me pay for I should say. My old monitor, which was a CRT, up and died about a month ago so I needed to get a replacement. To maximize some of my desk space, I decided to go the LCD route and so far I'm liking it.

My grandmama didn't really know what to get me so she gave me some money to go pick up something I wanted. With it, I picked up two books that I've had my eyes on for a while now. The first was the gigantic Ultimate Spider-Man hardcover from Barnes & Noble. This isn't just the first volume hardcover, it's the uber-volume that contains all of the first 3 hardcovers within it. I've never read any of the Marvel Ultimate titles, and I've never read too much Spider-Man period, so I thought this might be a good way to start out.

The second book was the DC Comics Encyclopedia. Everything I've ever wanted to know about DC's myriad of characters can be found in this volume. I've had a fun time just leafing through the pages seeing who's in it so I can't wait to start exploring many of the characters from the DC univers I don't know a whole lot about.

Other than Doom III, I snagged a few Xbox games as presents to keep me busy--X-men Legends, Spy Hunter, and Spy Hunter 2. Kristin and I played probably 20 hours of X-men Legends while she was down visiting and I heartily recommend it to all X-men and action role-playing game fans. It's a totally immersive experience if you're an X-men fan. You get to fight many of the classic enemies with a ton of different X-men characters. You can also play around in the Danger Room, explore the X-mansion, play X-men trivia, and do tons of other stuff. It's easily worth the money.

The Spy Hunter games I've wanted for a while (yes, I know they're pretty old games) but never gotten around to picking up. Racing games have never interested me very much, but then I played the 007 games for Xbox (Nightfire and Agent Under Fire). In those games there were driving missions that were very goal oriented and structured. I found that I really liked that type of driving as opposed to simply racing. Both of the Spy Hunter games fall smack dab into that kind of driving game so I requested them for Christmas. I've delved into the first one and it's quite fun, if not a little bit hard.

Other than those gifts, I got the usual gift certificates and little knick-knack type things. Oh yeah, and I got a new headpiece for my cell phone since my current one kind of sucks. All in all, I think Christmas treated me quite well this year. I hope that all of you out there in internet land fared as well!

Monday, January 03, 2005

Sorry for the Interruption

Yeah, so anyone who's come by my site in the last week or so has been greeted by a wonderful advertisement. As you may have deduced, they're my hosting company. I've never had trouble with them in the past up until this last week... well, I also had a little trouble before, but chalked it up to a privacy concern.

Anyhow, here's the story. My hosting with expired sometime during the summer, I believe. When it was coming close to the expiration date, I contacted them letting them know I'd like to continue my hosting with them, but my email on file had been deactivated (it was my college email) so I was emailing them from my new work email. After multiple emails, I received no response. It came time for my hosting to end and I expected a big ad page to appear much like it did this last week, but it never did. My hosting just kept going. I never really thought about it again.

Then Christmas Eve rolls around and I see my site has been taken down. must have finally decided to cancel my hosting since I hadn't continued it. I went through the process of signing up again and letting them know I tried to renew my account before but didn't ever receive a response. I waited all this last week for some type of response, but never received one, yet my credit card was charged.

I emailed them today asking what was up and received their general email about how to set up my account, so that's what I did. Incidentally, my site is now hosted on a server in the UK, which seems odd but whatever, it's back up again.

Now I'm still waiting on a response to my questions about their lack of replies to my emails and a refund of the startup fee that I shouldn't have to pay again (which amounts to $39.00). I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll get refunded, but I haven't been very impressed by their customer service so far.

Anyways, I hope my site being down won't have permanently turned too many people away. Tell your friends, I'm back! I'm also here to stay for at least three years as that's how long I renewed my hosting and domain name so if they try to screw me again at least it'll only happen once every three years.

E Town Concrete - Made for War CD Review

Over time, E-Town Concrete have begun to resemble a blade of grass blowing to and fro in the wind. When the wind blows, the piece of grass can’t help but sway with the direction it is pointed. As the musical breezes have blown, so has E-Town Concrete’s blade of grass. They started out as a hardcore band when they were relatively unknown, when they just sprouted out of the ground. As their fanbase grew, their music started to blow in another direction—that of rap-rock. Riding the crest of the rap-rock breeze with their major label release, The Renaissance, E-Town Concrete garnered as many detractors as they did fans before they fell back under the radar. The next musical breeze to blow their way was the heavy metal revival wind which they let themselves get caught up in on Made for War, their newest release

Gone are the rap-rock songs (except for “Do You Know What It’s Like?” and “All That You Have is Still Not Enough”). Gone are the Latin influences. Gone is the diversity. In place of these missing pieces is nothing more than generic heavy metal songs. It would appear that they were trying to get back to the intensity of their roots while still remaining commercially viable. In doing so, they created watered down metal (even nu-metal-ish) songs instead of coming out and rocking your face off. There are some decent songs on here, such as “Made for War”, which retains some of their previously prevalent rap elements, and “Wide Awake”, probably the heaviest song on the disc, but other than these sparse few songs Made for War is a disappointment.

The songs on here feel very dated. If this cd had hit at the beginning of 2004 or in 2003 instead of the close of this year, it might have sounded a little more fresh, but after having listened to gems by Unearth and Machine Head, and even having heard moderately good cds by Dry Kill Logic and Flaw, Made for War just feels like an also ran effort. The couple of rap-rock songs are pretty laughable and feel very mid to late 90’s. Pass over this cd and use your Christmas money on something more deserving of your time.